Reflections on "live simply so others may simply live"
No parody, no satire, no snarking, this is my take on the often repeated piece of bumper sticker advice "live simply so others may simply live." Like most bumper sticker advice (henceforth known as BSA) it might sound good to some people, but on closer inspection, it's full of both BS and SA (which, where I come from, stands for "shit ass").
I can't remember the exact place I first saw this phrase, but I know it was either on a car outside the local vegetarian restaurant, or maybe it was a letters to the editor in a copy of Utne Review (or whatever it's called now). Either one should say a lot and both have a lot of overlap. When I first heard the saying I assumed it was going to be people living in caves, doing without nice things. Doing without things at all. Taking a dump in a bucket and using old Utne Review issues for toilet paper (what else is it good for?), etc. But that doesn't really fit the description of any neo-hippie I know. Though of course, they could be posers. Or maybe not.
Getting back to the previously mentioned restaurant and magazine, I like to think of both places as bourgeoisie Marxist. The vegetarian restaurant had delicious food, but the store inside also sold $5 bags of organic dry beans (compared to $1 at most supermarkets for the normal stuff) while having lots of stickers of phrases by Marx and Che and all the other shit asses that Marxists love to lick. I've only read Utne once, and no, I didn't actually buy it. It was a three year old copy and I asked the restaurant owner if I could take it. He said I could, so I did. And, as I expected, there was a lot of demonizing of big corporations, small businesses and other successful people, yet the authors of said articles didn't seem to realize that making at least $70K a year to mindlessly parrot a book in front of a class for 12 hours a week is far more successful than any small businessman I've ever met. There is nothing like having a real job to make you hate over paid Marxist college professors. Sure, some are good, but most start at $70,000 to teach 12 hours a week, for 8 months out of the year. Some make a few hundred thousand a year. If I worked that little I'd only gross about $4,000 a year. And for the Marxists out there, yes your $70K is > my $4K for comparable time and effort. And don't give me this bullshit that "I have to grade papers for about 20 hours a week!" You're still working eight hours less than your average worker and get four months vacation. I don't even get four weeks vacation!
OK, it sounds like I am sidetracked, but I say all of this to point out the disconnect I had when I came across the saying for the first time. In the starry eyes of the owners of the restaurant and the typical Utne reader, I was an oppressor. A straight white male, part owner of a small business, yet I couldn't really afford to buy the overpriced junk in their store. The tenured straight white male Marxist college professors could, but as for an "oppressor" like me, nope, no can do. To drive the point home, the classifieds in the back featured such things as adverts for $50 hemp shirts (each!), dominatrix phone sex lines (I'd imagine these "women" are trannies, since I can't imagine a nice progressive magazine advocating for straight sex), whacko web pages and a special offer... for only $5 I could have my very own union-made bumper sticker that reads "Live simply..." well you know the rest.
What am I saying exactly? Mainly that Marxists and the radical environmentalists (with an emphasis on the mental) supposedly talk for the average man, woman and child in the USA against the greedy corporations. Most seem to have a strong hatred of small businesses as well, which is especially funny considering that somebody has to make these ridiculous items, even if they're just one old woman sewing in her pot smoke filled basement, she's still a businesswoman, like it or not. And don't kid yourselves, "live simply..." is every bit a marketing slogan as "The taste of a new generation."
The canard is still the same. Buying most of the items described in that post (and Good Humans is actually an online store as far as I can tell) will still cost you about 10x similar items from JC Pennys and Wal-Mart will cost, and you'll end up getting a lot less of it. One of the few things I splurge on are Clairefontaine journals. I also splurge on pens, though since I usually use a cheap fountain pen filled with Noodlers ink (the bulletproof Legal Lapis stuff) it's not really splurging since I'm still on the same bottle I bought over a year ago. Anyway, I don't know the current price of eco-friendly pens, but I do know a 40 page journal that has acid-free paper costs about $15 (and the paper is made from elephant dung, tasty). Compare that to the 240 page large, unlined Moleskine journal which also costs $15 (and the paper is made from trees! what a concept...). So I guess to get the same amount of paper and go green I have to pay $90? So I can buy three years worth of Moleskine journals for the same cost as six months worth of "green" journals. What a bargain...
Of course, I could conceivably buy all organic products, spend outrageous funds for them and walk around smelling my own farts thinking how I am finally a good human. But I might not be able to eat. I make about average for an American desk jockey, which is to say a metric shit tonne more than what the actual poor makes. But, as an evil, awful, straight white male business owning oppressor, I'm still not rich enough to eat (let alone organics) and still afford to "live simply so others may simply live." I'll leave that to the rich Marxist college professors and magazine editors.
And none of this is to say organic is bad. I still have a hemp wallet I bought four years ago for roughly the same price as the cheap wallets that used to fall apart after two, but it is one of the more reasonably priced organic items out there. But a wallet is a lot different than a shirt. I still have oldish shirts I wear constantly and still hold up, so it's not like the stuff I buy at Wal-Mart is not long lasting.
My advice for rich, bourgeoisie Marxist environmentalists? Keep buying that over priced junk that only you can afford. Continue to live a rich life and enjoy it. Not everybody can do this, including many of the "evil" small business owners you hate. But for the love of God stop acting like the defenders of the poor, stop looking down on those who can't afford your lifestyle, and finally, stop smelling your own farts! I realize your vegan diet means you produce about 1,000 times the gas that my omnivore diet does, but they still stink. Just because you enjoy the smell of human shit doesn't mean everybody does.
written July 19th, 2009
I have released my text works under a Creative Commons Licence.